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PACER re-entry was vital

Fiji Times, Suva

PACER re-entry was vital

By Geraldine Panapasa

16 August 2015

While Fiji has rejoined the Pacific agreement on closer economic relations (PACER) Plus negotiations after a lapse of more than five years, the road to reaching a mutual agreement has not been easy.

And though some stakeholders in the business community may see Fiji’s re-entry into the negotiations as a danger to economic growth and regional trade, Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Shaheen Ali said the decision to join the negotiations was important for the country.

"PACER Plus negotiations have been difficult, more so for Fiji because we have taken our time to join negotiations but it was important that we join the negotiations," he said at the 4th annual Fiji Business Forum in Suva yesterday.

"It was an important decision to make not because of our access into Australia and New Zealand — as we have South Pacific regional trade and economic co-operation agreement (SPARTECA) and duty free access — but as in textile, clothing and footwear, not all is rosy.

"There are still rules of origin. Our agriculture exporters will tell you there are still quarantine and standard barriers in the Australia and New Zealand markets, which are very tough so just because we have no tariff barriers in Australia and New Zealand doesn’t mean that we immediately have perfect access into the market."

Mr Ali said the Pacific Islands Country Trade agreement (PICTA), which encapsulated 14 Pacific Island countries, had become Fiji’s largest export destination — much higher than Australia.

"But the trade agreement itself is not being implemented. It is not working. Much of the inroads companies like FMF Foods Ltd have made it on its own. Fiji as a regional hub has a competitive advantage such as our proximity and logistical advantage in those markets."